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Seven Major Obstacles to Successful IVR
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Seven Major Obstacles to Successful IVR

March 12, 2008

  By Brian Solomon, TMCnet Web Editor

Interactive voice response (IVR) is very conceptually compelling as a technology. The ability to offer 24-hour service to customers without the need for human intervention can be a crucial tool. But a high amount of IVR applications fail to work properly. Here are seven of the major reasons why:


1. No option to speak to a person
While IVR can be of great help, providing a self-service facility to regular customers, it is not the complete panacea. IVR works best in two areas: playing options to route calls to the best agent group, and self-service to a closed group of frequent callers. Automating beyond this level can often be counterproductive with poor customer service and less than expected take-up. Even worse is to use an IVR to answer a sales line.

2. Poor or no hand-off to an agent
A frequent trap is not allowing people to connect to an agent. Cost is often the reason given for this. For example, a well-known mobile phone company publishes a number to call if you have questions with your bill. But, it does not allow the option to transfer the call to an agent to discuss the problem. When transferring to an agent, the customer details should be transferred with the call. It is bad customer service to ask for the same details again.

3. Poor menu prompt structure
This is widespread. The golden rule states that you should never have more than five options on a voice menu. There should also be no more than two levels of menu.

4. Recording Messages
A poor voice recording has ruined many a good IVR application. A common mistake has been to use the telephone handset to record announcements rather than a professional recording studio. This can result in inconsistent volume levels as well as poorer speech quality. Recording studios are able to smooth out volume levels and provide the correct frequency profile to match the telephone rather than stereo quality.

5. Voice Recognition Accuracy
Voice recognition is a very powerful technology, but it is not a panacea. It claims 95% accuracy, but this is frequently on a single command. Mobile phone users can find difficulty using the service. For some users, it simply fails to work at all. It should be used with care and works best to a closed user group. After two voice recognition attempts, the caller should be connected to a live agent.

6. Taking too long for frequent users
A new user to the system needs clear instructions on how to use the system. It is also important that frequent users can enter information as quickly as possible. Most IVR systems allow type ahead, sometimes called cut-through, that allows users to enter data while the voice command is being spoken.

7. Insufficient testing
So, all that trouble has gone into developing the IVR application. Was it first introduced to a small group of internal customers to iron out any problems? All too often the answer is no. This would have sorted out all the previous problems before they caused any lasting damage.

Brian Solomon is a Web Editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To see more of his articles, please visit Brian Solomon’s columnist page
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